Sunday 11 March 2018

Let's Talk About ..... Mental Health.

Mental Health ..... Why is it such a taboo subject?

I have my theories, so bare with me.

If you take a glance at the history of mental health, in the distant past an individual was looked down upon if they had a mental health issue. Individuals were hidden away from society in institutions or hidden behind locked doors and never spoken of if they had a mental health disorder.

While treatments and therapies have changed in recent history, that taboo status is still very much present.

I am of the belief that mental health is rarely spoken about because it is not understood by the majority of society. When you look at the portrayal of mental health issues in the media and movie/television industry, individuals with a mental health issue are portrayed as being crazy or insane and at times this portrayal is completely exaggerated. These portrayals fuel the biases, the misconceptions and the lack of understanding that is held by society and thus the taboo label sticks.

What these portrayals don't show is the real side of depression, how heartbreaking it can be to watch someone dealing with schizophrenia, or the constant hell that it is to live in a state of anxiety. The portrayals don't show the heartbreak that some parents go through on a daily basis watching their children struggle to get out of bed due to low self esteem and anxiety as a result from being the victims of bullying.

And as there is still a stigma attached to having being diagnosed with a mental health issue, those who do suffer from a mental health issue may be hesitant to open up about their struggles due to the fear of being ostracised or judged by those around them.

I struggled with, and still do struggle with, anxiety issues as a teenager and young adult but I always felt as though I had to put on a strong facade and just get on with whatever I was doing at any particular point in time. I have always felt socially awkward which I know now is my anxiety showing through. At no point did I open up to anyone about my anxiety or depression as I didn't want to be judged by my peers. I also didn't think that I would be taken seriously as I was a good student, I didn't get into trouble at school, how could I possibly be suffering from anxiety? I was just shy wasn't I?

Two weeks after O was delivered via emergency caesarian, I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression (PND) and put onto medication to assist me to get through our day to day routine. I can recall the exact event of what lead to my GP at the time telling me that she thought that I had PND. To cut a long story short, my C-section scar split open due to a very nasty infection two weeks to the date that O was born. We ended up back at the hospital and I was a complete mess and I said words to the effect of "nothing is going right, the only good thing in my life is my baby" to which my GP said "Jen, you have a beautiful baby and a loving husband and everything is going to be okay. But we need to put you on some happy pills to help you to think logically."

She was right, I did need the happy pills to help me see and think logically but this wasn't something that I made public knowledge as I was highly embarrassed by the diagnosis. All I could keep thinking was "I am a professional in the public sector, what are people going to think? They're going to think that I am weak." Mmmm, hindsight is 20/20 as I can now see that what I was thinking was highly illogical.

And I can now see that my illogical thoughts about PND back in 2009 were due to the misconceptions that I had about PND. I also now know that PND is quite common and yet it still seems to be somewhat of a taboo subject.

Fast forward to 2014 and once again I found that I was struggling to think logically. However it wasn't due to having a newborn, nor was it due to having two very active children. It was due to the fact that we, as a family, weren't being taken seriously by medical and educational professionals about L's overall health, development and challenging behaviour. Once again my GP said a few very helpful words as I sat balling my eyes out in his office as L was in the midst of an almighty meltdown over NOT being allowed to play on the busy road outside of the doctor surgery. My GP said "Jen, you have two beautiful children, you are an amazing Mum, and at the moment you need a little help to think logically." I walked away from the doctors surgery with a script for happy pills, a referral to our pediatrician for L's development and behavioural issues and new outlook on life.

Fast forward a little more to 2018 and I am learning how to assist O with her anxiety issues. I want to equip O with the skills that she needs to be able to self-manage her own anxiety so that in the future when her anxiety decides to raise its head, and I know that it will at some stage, she will be able to confidently use the strategies that she is learning. I am also instilling in her that having anxiety is okay. That being diagnosed with an anxiety issue is not something to be ashamed of. Ever.

But there still needs to be more done in society to break the misconceptions and hence break the taboo status of mental health issues. And the only way to break misconceptions about mental health is to talk openly about the various issues that individuals in society struggle with on a daily basis.

I was recently fortunate to participate in an interview about O's anxiety for a Mental Health series that Michelle over at Mummying My Way is publishing on her blog all through the month of March. Michelle interviewed people from all walks of life for her series to highlight various mental health issues - from anxiety through to Post Natal Depression and everything in between.

I am looking forward to reading all of the stories that are featured in this series. I am looking forward to gaining an insight into the lives of those who have spoken up about their struggles with various mental health issues.

I hope that through the series, more people will come to understand what mental health issues are like and how they can help their friends and family who may be suffering from a similar condition manage their condition.

We all need to be brave and speak up to break down and challenge the misconceptions that society has about Mental Health issues. If more people have an understanding of what mental health issues are like, then perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult to open up and talk about mental health issues.

And what ever you do, do NOT tell someone who suffers from depression or anxiety to just be happy, to forget about what ever is worrying them. This is like telling someone that they should hold their head under water and breath. It is near impossible and not at all helpful advice.

What you can do is be there for them. Listen to them.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have suffered from depression myself and come from a family that has struggled with all sorts of mental illnesses. My parents are both therapists so I never even knew that there was a stigma against mental health until I got older!

  2. I completely agree with you, mental illness has such a negative stigma and it is so sad. As someone who has a degree in psychology and psychology of the child I really hope, for our children’s sake, that with time the stigma can be erased.

  3. I suffer with spells of anxiety, it is hard to talk about as I do feel embarrassed about it, although I haven’t been bad enough to go to the doctor thankfully. You are amazing for sharing your experience, you’ve made me feel like I should talk more openly about it

  4. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. After decades of anxiety, sobriety, chronic illness & special needs parenting I have a self care tool box but I have to use it every day or it's right there! I blog about mental health too if you want to stop by. Have a great dya!

  5. I’m so glad you’re writing posts like this! I think these kind of topics are desperately needing to be addressed more and more. And like you said, breaking the stigma won’t happen until we start talking about mental health! I struggle with anxiety and this really spoke to me!


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